NFL Media researcher Brandon Mendoza identifies several of the biggest overreactions from each week's set of games. The storylines below are bound to play out because, after all, numbers never lie. Right?
Aaron Rodgers always crumples against great QBs
They say that to be the man, you have to beat the man, and Aaron Rodgers once again struggled to do that on Sunday.
Rodgers' otherwise sparkling numbers take a nosedive when you look at his performance against other great QBs, especially in games against Tom Brady. The all-time leader in career passer rating (102.6) has an 80.6 passer rating in three games against Brady. In Sunday's disastrous second quarter, Rodgers had his third career pick-six, which he followed with an interception on the very next drive; it was just the fourth quarter of his career that featured multiple interceptions.
Rodgers vs. Brady III was the 15th meeting in NFL history between starting QBs who have each won multiple NFL MVPs prior to the matchup. Rodgers is now 0-3 in those games, and he's the only QB among the six to participate in such matchups to not have won one. Brady? He's 5-2 in those games.
While Rodgers is now 1-2 head-to-head against Brady, he has literally been average against some of the other greats, both past and present. Including the playoffs, Rodgers is a combined 9-9 against Brady, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. Throw in retired stars Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner and Rodgers' Packers predecessor, Brett Favre, and that record moves to 13-13.
It's panic time for the Patriots!
We've seen the Patriots lose early in seasons before, but not like this. For 18 straight seasons, from 2002 to 2019, they've been .500 or better through their first five games, the longest such streak in NFL history -- and the Broncos snapped that streak by sending the Pats to a 2-3 record in Week 6. For just the fifth time in team history (and the first time since a 1993 game against the Jets), New England did not allow a touchdown and still lost at home.
The Patriots' offense is averaging just 11.0 points in their last two games. Sure, they get a "Cam Newton was out" pass in Week 4 -- but what happened Sunday? They failed to score a touchdown in the opening half of a home game for the first time since a 2016 matchup vs. the Bills, in Week 4, when Jacoby Brissett was the Patriots' starter. More cause for concern: New England's longest pass play of the game against Denver came on a trick play, a 22-yard pass from Newton to Julian Edelman to James White, late in the fourth quarter.
Considering the Patriots are sitting in third place in the AFC East, another record streak is clearly in jeopardy: their 11 straight division titles.
This is the most balanced team of Big Ben's career
The Steelers are 5-0 -- and surprisingly, this is just the second time that's happened in their storied franchise history. (The last time it happened: in 1978.) Good Steelers teams of the recent past have typically leaned on a stingy, Steel Curtain-esque defense or the potent sting of a Killer Bs offense. However the 2020 unit represents the first time Ben Roethlisberger has enjoyed both a strong defense and a strong offense.
Pittsburgh ranks in the top five in scoring offense (fourth) and scoring defense (third) in the same season for the first time since 1979. The Steelers' current pace of 31.2 points per game is on track to be the highest in team history in a season (their current best: 27.3 points per game in 2014). Roethlisberger is also on pace to set career highs in completion percentage (69.1%), TD-to-INT ratio (11:1) and passer rating (109.1).
Yet, we also have to talk about the defense, which just became the second unit in NFL history with three-plus sacks and one-plus interception in each of the first five games of a season (the other team being the 1985 Giants). T.J. Watt is the only player in the NFL to rank in the top three in QB hits (13, tied for second) and tackles for loss (nine, second) this season. Minkah Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, just scored his third defensive touchdown since joining the Steelers in Week 3, 2019, which is tied with Marcus Peters for the most in the NFL in that span. Including Sunday's win over the Browns, the Steelers have won 16 straight games in which they had a defensive TD. So, you tell me ... where is their weakness?
The Titans have the best offense in football
Who is the only team to rank in the top five in both scoring and total offense this season? You guessed it: the Tennessee Titans, who rank second in both.
On Sunday, the Titans set a franchise record to the tune of 601 total yards of offense against the Texans. They became the first team in NFL history to have a player with at least 350 passing yards (Ryan Tannehill) and a player with at least 200 rushing yards (Derrick Henry) in the same game.
Tannehill has logged three games with three-plus passing TDs in 2020, already tied for his personal best in a season.
Henry is making feature backs cool again by becoming the first player in NFL history to log a 200-yard rushing game in three consecutive seasons. His 264 scrimmage yards on Sunday were more than the Jets (263), Bears (261), Giants (240), Browns (220), Bills (206) and Packers (201) each managed as a team in Week 6.
On top of all that, the Titans have scored 30-plus points in four straight games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL.
Budda Baker is Tyrann Mathieu 2.0
Let's start with the tale of the tape:
Budda Baker: 5-foot-10, 195 pounds. Second-round pick (No. 36 overall) by the Cardinals in the 2017 NFL Draft. Two Pro Bowls and one first-team All-Pro selection in four seasons.
Tyrann Mathieu: 5-9, 190 pounds. Third-round pick (No. 69 overall) by the Cardinals in the 2013 NFL Draft. One Pro Bowl and one first-team All-Pro selection in six seasons with Arizona. (Mathieu, who played for the Texans in 2018 and joined the Chiefs in 2019, was also named first-team All-Pro last season in Kansas City.)
In the last 10 seasons, just four Cardinals defensive/special teams players have been named first-team All-Pro, and Mathieu and Baker are two of them. Since entering the NFL in 2017, Baker is one of seven safeties with 15-plus passes defensed and five-plus sacks in that span.
Now on to Monday, where Baker stuffed the stat sheet with seven tackles, one sack, two QB hits, a forced fumble and an interception in the Cardinals' 38-10 destruction of the Cowboys. How rare is it to log at least one sack, one forced fumble and one interception in the same game? It's something Mathieu has yet to accomplish in his eight-year career.